Mush, Spot, Mush!

❝ an ominous video titled “Mush, Spot Mush!” posted on YouTube Tuesday, robot maker Boston Dynamics showed off the sheer strength of its SpotMini quadripedal robot dog. The clip shows 10 specialized Spotmini derivatives called Spotpower hauling a box truck across a parking lot — and at a one degree incline.

❝ The robot maker announced in 2018 that it will start selling SpotMini robot dogs to the public this year. The 66 pound robot can climb stairs, cross a wide variety of different terrain and carry 31 pounds…

What exactly those applications will look like and how much a Spotpower will go for is still unclear. But it’s an incredible feat of strength and agility that sets the bar for future commercial robots.

Actually, we buy our dog’s favorite dog food at Tractor Supply. Is that supposed to be an omen of Things To Come?

Boston Dynamics’ new quadruped Wildcat — Woo-Hoo!

Boston Dynamics, the company behind DARPA’s most advanced legged robots such as PETMAN, BigDog, and Atlas, has unveiled the free-roaming version of their sprinting robot Cheetah. The new robot is called WildCat, and it’s already galloping at speeds up to 16 mph on flat ground.

Boston Dynamics is participating in DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which seeks to build robot systems that can move quickly in natural environments. To that end, it first developed a prototype called Cheetah that broke all speed records for legged robots last year. Cheetah was capable or reaching 28 mph (45 km/h), but it was tethered to an external power source and had the benefit of running on a smooth treadmill while being partially balanced by a boom arm. At the time, Boston Dynamics said it was working towards a free-running version of the robot, but it wasn’t until a few hours ago that they finally blew the lid on it.

WildCat not only gallops, but can bound and turn circles as well. And, when it loses its footing during the demonstration and nearly flips over, it comes to rest with all four feet on the ground not much worse for wear. Being that this is still fairly early in its development, the quadruped’s powerful motors don’t so much purr as scream, but as we’ve seen with Boston Dynamics’ other robots they can dampen the noise later. For now, its work is focused on getting the robot up to speed.

Dig it. They haven’t worked hard at any level of miniaturization either – as far as I can see. Going to be an awesome critter, someday.

Boston Dynamics gets human movement pretty close to real

Back in late 2009 Boston Dynamics revealed it was working on a humanoid robot that would test protective clothing for the military. Having already amazed the world three years earlier with the lifelike balancing capabilities of its quadruped BigDog, this would be the company’s first bipedal robot. It was an ambitious project, but it appears the work has paid off. The robot’s eerily realistic body movements are made all the more convincing now that its mechanical nature is hidden by a chemical protection suit.

In order to test the durability of hazmat suits, the robot would have to perform rigorous tests like running, jumping, crouching, and crawling. When the project was first announced it was almost too ambitious to be believed, but the company has been making steady progress over the years. In 2011 it published a video of an incomplete PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) performing realistic motions that seem to leapfrog high tech robots developed over the course of decades in Japan.

Although tethered by a power cable, PETMAN’s balance is more dynamic and natural than other bipeds, and it outdoes other humanoid robots with its skin. The robot not only has sensors embedded in its skin that will detect leaks in the suit, but it also artificially perspires in order to maintain a micro-climate inside the clothing. The idea is to precisely replicate the real conditions inside a suit that might affect its eventual wearer.

Boston Dynamics says that PETMAN has been delivered to a testing facility where it is undergoing validation experiments. Soon the robot will be installed inside of an exposure chamber where it will be tested against the likes of sarin and mustard gas.

A useful DARPA-esque project. And BD is to be congratulated on the quality and detail of their work.